Splendor in Ink and Wash

Feng Boyi

Rather than saying Peng Wei is painting clothing, it would perhaps be more apt to say she's “painting skin.”  How much does dress bear the weight of ideology?  It symbolizes an immediate reflection on how the vicissitudes of life affect us.  Peng Wei clusters and adds color onto the clothes that are closest to the body, including in her current work in progress “underclothing” which depicts ready-made objects.  Clothing forms a metaphorical manifestation of her experiences, memories, and interests.  Onto the life-likeness of the clothing, she applies a dimly discernible illusoriness.  There is no doubt that everything is “past” (a pair of contemporary shoes is also painted as an antique), yet it nevertheless shares the property of natural things that have a hypothetical history.  Different kinds of clothing are outlined and dyed, enveloping and opening up the critical points of her ink painting.  She doesn't simply and directly represent the complexities of reality, but that is perhaps the success of her art.  Being far off from reality allows her art to maintain the microscopic details of her emotions, making apparent the substance and mystery of the ink painting itself.  When we view her works, we often encounter these nodes of minutiae.  From her individual experiences, she tailors fragments of historical clothing to express her memories and loves.  Even though there is no concrete figural imagery, there seems to be a shadow outlined on the silk to echo and construct an “alienation effect.”  Within the sentimental yearning for the past, there is a search for the longing and freedom found in dreams, from which emerges a style that is at once sad and beautiful, feminine and gentle.  On this point, she is also genuinely real: within the conditions of a subjective idea, she authentically expresses an inner world—a kind of abstract reality refracted from the inner self—to the point that being enamored with this kind of vocabulary and style replaces interest in the things that are actually depicted in her paintings.  She builds an exquisite illusion that she pursues with single-hearted devotion.  Robes or shoes, even underclothing, possess infinite varieties of types, styles, and colors, which can be mixed together in a multitude of ways.  Besides being implicated in body politics or serving as symbols and declarations of identity, they are also capable of achieving a kind of state of mind.  They add value to emotion, and in a clamorous and chaotic world, they can be enriched with a dispassionate self-expression.